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Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris)

Maidenhead fern, Maidenhead fern


Maidenhair fern is an attractive, yet delicate fern often sought as an ornamental addition to gardens. In the UK it is typically found growing in damp and shaded crevices on limestone rocks and cliff-faces, although globally is capable of exploiting a wide range of habitats. Semi-evergreen, it reproduces by the production of spores through Spring and Summer and can also spread by rhizomes.


Maidenhair Fern has a global distribution and is found on every continent that supports temperate climate zones. In the UK it is mainly found in the south of England and along the west coast of England and Wales. It is found at three sites along the limestone coast in the west of Cumbria. The general condition of plants and the proportion of spores that germinate vary from year to year but even in good years, the population is not expanding into new sites.

Reasons for Decline

The species is restricted to small areas by its requirement for frost free days in the winter and very specific substrate and environmental conditions – it likes to be damp, cool, and in still conditions with high humidity. It may have declined due to increases in scrub cover in suitable habitat along the coast. Some native British populations suffered from depletion for horticultural collections during the ‘fern craze’ that swept 19th century Britain.

Project Aims

BOOM will work closely with an existing community project which has spent the last few years collecting, propagating and translocating ferns in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB.  BOOM will look to expand on this work by engaging with wider audiences through highlighting the wider causes and implications of single species declines within complex interconnected ecosystems.


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